Queensland irrigator awarded for innovative new pumping system

Posted 30 August 2017

PumpsAn engineer who adapted power-station technology to create automated irrigation pump systems for small Australian farmers has been awarded the 2017 NESCAFÉ Headstart prize

The University of Queensland’s Patrick Kinsella won the $15,000 prize for his automated irrigation pumping system design. 

Using existing technology operating in sewage and water treatment plants, Kinsella said his aim was to offer automated irrigation pumping to small-scale Australian farmers. 

“I’ve designed a pump station for a farm on a river. It’s simple, you’ve still got to turn it on and start the vacuum pump. But what I wanted to do was make it all automated,” he said. 

“I came up with the idea because a friend of mine works for a multinational valve company that sells to power stations. They weren’t thinking of selling to the Australian agriculture sector, but farmers here want this type of product now so they can turn pumps on with their phone. 

“My aim was to build a product around that need for small-scale agriculture. There are a couple of systems already in Australia, but they are for big corporate farms, not for your average family farmer.”

And while the design has been tested by Kinsella, there’s still the challenge of poor reception and internet connectivity in regional areas to overcome. 

“The farmer I’ve designed the pump for hasn’t added the automation to it yet. The main thing holding back the industry is poor internet connection and mobile coverage. It’s a struggle,” he said. 

“That will eventually be sorted out, but it is holding the technology back at the moment.”

Once the technology gets off the ground, Kinsella said his new pumping system will offer small-scale Australian farmers greater ease of use and a safer option for managing pumps. 

“It offers convenience but also safety. There is an engine above ground with belts running to about five meters below where the pump is. It’s a big, spinning object with a small guard and it can be pretty dangerous,” he said. 

Kinsella said his end goal is to commercialise his design, but he also plans on specialising his mechanical engineering knowledge through further study. 

“Everything I’ve achieved thus far has relied on my personal networks, but I’d like to use the money to set up a website,” Kinsella said. 

“I studied mechanical engineering at UQ, but I also want to use the money I won through the NESCAFÉ Headstart prize to do an Irrigation Australia course on pumps.”

Interested in finding out more about the latest innovations in the Queensland water industry? The Queensland Gala Dinner & Awards Night is happening next week. Click here to find out more. 
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